Our top politicians may have violated international law. Why is that not an election issue?
[Editor's note: This article is adapted from a keynote address given by Professor Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at UBC. The occasion was the opening of the UBC Model United Nations in Vancouver on January 12, 2006]
Two recent quotes. First, from Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, just five weeks ago, on December 7, 2005:
"The absolute ban on torture, a cornerstone of the international human rights edifice, is under attack. The principle we once believed to be unassailable-the inherent right to physical integrity and dignity of the person-is becoming a casualty of the so-called war on terror."
Now, this one from December 18, 2005:
"There's a little bit of the movie Casablanca in this, where, you know, the inspector says 'I'm shocked, shocked that this kind of thing takes place'."
With those words, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell sought to extinguish a scandal that has been raging in Europe over the use of European airspace and airports for the "extraordinary rendition" of terrorist suspects, either to secret CIA prisons, or into the hands of foreign intelligence services notorious for torture, such those of Syria and Egypt.
Yet, Powell's words cannot change the fact that secret prisons, and at least some of the renditions and methods of interrogation used by the CIA, constitute serious violations of international law, including the Torture Convention.
His words cannot change the fact...
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